Henry Morgentaler
Henry Morgentaler, CM
Order of Canada
The Order of Canada is a Canadian national order, admission into which is, within the system of orders, decorations, and medals of Canada, the second highest honour for merit...

 (born March 19, 1923, in Łódź, Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

) is a Canadian
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

A physician is a health care provider who practices the profession of medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury and other physical and mental impairments...

 and prominent pro-choice
Support for the legalization of abortion is centered around the pro-choice movement, a sociopolitical movement supporting the ethical view that a woman should have the legal right to elective abortion, meaning the right to terminate her pregnancy....

 advocate who has fought numerous legal battles for that cause.

Early life

Heniek (Henry) Morgentaler was born in Łódź, Poland, about 120 kilometres southwest of Warsaw. His parents were Golda Nitka and Josef Morgentaler. Morgentaler's father, Joseph, was active in the socialist Jewish Labour Bund
General Jewish Labour Bund in Poland
The General Jewish Labour Bund in Poland was a Jewish socialist party in Poland which promoted the political, cultural and social autonomy of Jewish workers, sought to combat antisemitism and was generally opposed to Zionism.-Creation of the Polish Bund:...

. Josef Morgentaler was a City Councillor for the Bund.

Henry's future wife, Chava Rosenfarb
Chava Rosenfarb
Chava Rosenfarb was a Holocaust survivor and Jewish-Canadian author of Yiddish poetry and novels, a major contributor to post-World War II Yiddish Literature. Rosenfarb began writing poetry as young as eight...

, recalls that Henry was afraid to go to school:
“Polish kids ran after him and threw stones at him. It was a normal thing. It was a general attitude, a looking-down attitude. It was a very common thing to hate Jews.”

By 1941, the ghetto had been sealed and Jews were not allowed to leave it. After the German capture of Poland, Josef Morgentaler was arrested and killed by the Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

. During the Holocaust, Morgentaler lived with his mother, Golda, and brother, Abraham, in the Łódź ghetto until August, 1944.

When the authorities moved in on the ghetto, the Rosenfarbs, the Morgentalers (Golda and her sons Henry and Abraham), and two other families hid in a room with the door concealed by a wardrobe. After two days in hiding, on August 23 they were found and sent to Auschwitz concentration camp
Auschwitz concentration camp
Concentration camp Auschwitz was a network of Nazi concentration and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II...

. The boys never saw their mother again: Golda Nitka-Morgentaler died at Auschwitz. On August 27, Henry and Abraham were shipped to KL Landsberg, Dachau concentration camp), where Abraham remained until the end of the war. Upon arrival Henry was tattooed with prisoner number 95077 and his younger brother Abraham with number 95095. In February, 1943, Henry was sent to KL Kaufering (a satellite camp of Dachau concentration camp). By the end of the war he was in sick bay (krankenrevier), whence he was finally liberated by U.S. Army on April 29, 1945.

After his release at age 22 Henry weighed just 70 pounds. He entered Displaced Persons Hospital in Lansberg/Lech. After few months there he was moved to a DP Hospital in St. Ottilien, and thence with Abraham to Feldafing
Feldafing is a municipality in Starnberg district, Bavaria, Germany, and is located on the west shore of Lake Starnberg, southwest of Munich.- History :...

, a Displaced Persons Camp, in Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...


Abraham Morgentaler left Feldafing Camp on June 18, 1946 for Marburg
Marburg is a city in the state of Hesse, Germany, on the River Lahn. It is the main town of the Marburg-Biedenkopf district and its population, as of March 2010, was 79,911.- Founding and early history :...

/Lahn. Thence he applied to immigrate to the U.S. He gave his birth year as 1929 (actually 1927) and applied as a juvenile (17 years old). On July 23, 1946, Abraham went to Frankfurt
Frankfurt am Main , commonly known simply as Frankfurt, is the largest city in the German state of Hesse and the fifth-largest city in Germany, with a 2010 population of 688,249. The urban area had an estimated population of 2,300,000 in 2010...

/Main-Sachsenhausen and entered a Camp for Immigrants to US (Auswanderungelager). On August 24, 1946, he boarded Marine Perch in Bremen
The City Municipality of Bremen is a Hanseatic city in northwestern Germany. A commercial and industrial city with a major port on the river Weser, Bremen is part of the Bremen-Oldenburg metropolitan area . Bremen is the second most populous city in North Germany and tenth in Germany.Bremen is...

 and sailed to the U.S.

Henry Morgentaler stayed at Feldafing Displaced Persons Camp until November 28, 1946, and then moved to Marburg/Lahn., where he stayed at dormitory run by UNRA (Studentenhaus (UNRA)). On August 4, 1947, he left Marburg/Lahn.

Apparently, Henry made his way to Belgium as he was in Brussels with the Rosenfarbs. Because he was not in Belgium legally, he was required to emigrate, and his fiancėe, Chava Rosenfarb
Chava Rosenfarb
Chava Rosenfarb was a Holocaust survivor and Jewish-Canadian author of Yiddish poetry and novels, a major contributor to post-World War II Yiddish Literature. Rosenfarb began writing poetry as young as eight...

, was in the same situation. Chava's sister, Henia Reinhartz, in her Memoir, "Bits and Pieces," described the harsh economic conditions while the family, and Henry, lived in Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

. One picture shows Henia, Chava, and their mother wearing coats made from blankets donated by UNRA. Henry and Chava married in 1949. They left Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 in February, 1950, on S.S. Samaria, sailing to Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...


The couple settled in Montréal, where Chava resumed her vocation as a poet. Several months later their first child, Goldie, was born. Their second child was a son, Abraham. Their marriage ended in divorce in the mid-1970s. Chava Rosenfarb died January 30, 2011.

Political career

In 1972 he ran in the Federal Election
Canadian federal election, 1972
The Canadian federal election of 1972 was held on October 30, 1972 to elect members of the Canadian House of Commons of the 29th Parliament of Canada. It resulted in a slim victory for the governing Liberal Party, which won 109 seats, compared to 107 seats for the opposition Progressive...

 in the riding of Saint-Denis
Saint-Denis (electoral district)
Saint-Denis was a federal electoral district in Quebec, Canada, that was represented in the Canadian House of Commons from 1917 to 1997....

 as an independent, finishing fourth with 1,509 votes.


Henry received his medical education from the Université de Montréal
Université de Montréal
The Université de Montréal is a public francophone research university in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It comprises thirteen faculties, more than sixty departments and two affiliated schools: the École Polytechnique and HEC Montréal...

, whence he graduated in 1953. After receiving his Canadian citizenship, he practised medicine in the east end of Montreal. He started as a general practitioner
General practitioner
A general practitioner is a medical practitioner who treats acute and chronic illnesses and provides preventive care and health education for all ages and both sexes. They have particular skills in treating people with multiple health issues and comorbidities...

 but when contraception
Contraception is the prevention of the fusion of gametes during or after sexual activity. The term contraception is a contraction of contra, which means against, and the word conception, meaning fertilization...

 was legalized in 1969, he specialized in family planning. He was one of the first Canadian doctors to perform vasectomies
Vasectomy is a surgical procedure for male sterilization and/or permanent birth control. During the procedure, the vasa deferentia of a man are severed, and then tied/sealed in a manner such to prevent sperm from entering into the seminal stream...

, insert IUDs and provide birth control
Birth control
Birth control is an umbrella term for several techniques and methods used to prevent fertilization or to interrupt pregnancy at various stages. Birth control techniques and methods include contraception , contragestion and abortion...

 pills to the unmarried.

On October 19, 1967, he gave public testimony before a Government of Canada
Government of Canada
The Government of Canada, formally Her Majesty's Government, is the system whereby the federation of Canada is administered by a common authority; in Canadian English, the term can mean either the collective set of institutions or specifically the Queen-in-Council...

 committee about his belief that any pregnant woman should have the right to a safe abortion. He was surprised by the result: he began to receive calls from women who wanted abortions. Robert Malcolm Campbell and Leslie Alexander Pal wrote, "Henry Morgentaler experienced the [abortion] law's limitations directly in the supplications of desperate women who visited his Montreal office." Morgentaler's initial response was to refuse:
"I hadn't expected the avalanche of requests and didn't realize the magnitude of the problem in immediate, human terms. I answered, 'I sympathize with you. I know your problem, but the law won't let me help you. If I do help you, I'll go to jail, I lose my practice—I have a wife and two children. I'm sorry, but I just can't!'"

For a time he was able to refer the women to two other doctors who did abortions, but when they became unavailable, he had to act. There was no one to whom he could send them, and some of them were ending up in the emergency department after amateur abortions. He has said that he felt like a coward for sending them away and that he was shirking his responsibility. Eventually, in spite of the risks to himself—loss of career, prison for years or for life—he decided to perform safe, sterile abortions for women and, at the same time, challenge the law. He knew from other doctors and from newspaper reports that women in Montreal had died from incompetent abortion. He knew that the women were determined to get abortions in spite of the danger to their health and lives. He knew that he could prevent those unnecessary deaths. And so he determined to use civil disobedience to change the law.

In 1968, Morgentaler gave up his family practice and began performing abortion
Abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo prior to viability. An abortion can occur spontaneously, in which case it is usually called a miscarriage, or it can be purposely induced...

s in his private clinic. Back then, abortion was illegal except for cases in which continuing a pregnancy threatened the life of the pregnant woman. On August 26, 1969, an amendment to the Criminal Code
Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69
The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69 was an omnibus bill that introduced major changes to the Criminal Code of Canada. It was introduced as Bill C-150 by then Minister of Justice Pierre Trudeau in the second session of the 27th Canadian Parliament on December 21, 1967...

 legalized abortion in Canada if performed in a hospital after approval of a Therapeutic Abortion Committee
Therapeutic Abortion Committee
A Therapeutic Abortion Committee refers to a Canadian committee of three medical doctors who would decide whether an abortion fit an exemption to the Criminal Code of Canada, which only permitted lawful abortion if continuation of a pregnancy would cause a woman medical harm...

. However, there was no requirement for a hospital to set up a committee and only about one-third of hospitals did, leaving many areas without legal abortion, forcing women to travel and inducing barriers and delays. Some committees never met. Even if they did, they never saw their "patient" and yet her fate was determined by their subjective opinions. In addition, there was no appeal of a TAC's decision. In effect, the system was grossly unfair. Morgentaler's abortions remained illegal under that new law because he did not submit them in advance to a TAC for approval; they became legal in 1988 as section 251 of the Criminal Code
Criminal Code of Canada
The Criminal Code or Code criminel is a law that codifies most criminal offences and procedures in Canada. Its official long title is "An Act respecting the criminal law"...

 (now known as section 287) was found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada
Supreme Court of Canada
The Supreme Court of Canada is the highest court of Canada and is the final court of appeals in the Canadian justice system. The court grants permission to between 40 and 75 litigants each year to appeal decisions rendered by provincial, territorial and federal appellate courts, and its decisions...


After Quebec stopped prosecuting him in 1976, Morgentaler opened an abortion clinic in Ontario. In spite of prosecutions, other provinces followed.

In 2003, he was able to close his Halifax clinics because a doctor that he trained was now doing abortions at a local hospital, QEII Health Sciences Centre.

In 2006, Morgentaler had to stop performing abortions after undergoing a heart bypass surgery. However, he continues to oversee the operation of his six private clinics.

As of 2011, there are clinics in Montreal, Quebec; Toronto and Ottawa, Ontario; Fredericton, New Brunswick; St. John's, Newfoundland. The twenty-one abortion clinics in Canada do almost half of the abortions, while hospitals have seen reduced demand. Henry Morgentaler had this explanation in 1992: "The private clinics are simply more user friendly—women don't have to come to hospital four times to get an abortion, as occurred in one recent case. The woman had to take an ultrasound, then make a second visit for a consultation with a counsellor, which was followed by a third visit for insertion of Laminaria. By the fourth visit, 24 hours later, she finally got the abortion, but only after a sleepless night and many cramps—it was like having two abortions instead of one. Because many Ontario hospitals still use Laminaria and general anesthetic, which private clinics don't use, the latter can provide the service with less discomfort and quicker recovery times. That's why women come to us."

Judicial battles

In 1969, Henry Morgentaler opened an abortion clinic in Montreal. On June 1, 1970, Montreal city police raided Morgentaler's clinic and laid several charges.

In 1973, the doctor claimed to have performed 5,000 safe abortions outside hospitals. He was arrested in Quebec and charged with performing illegal abortions. He cited the "defence of necessity"—that the abortions were necessary to preserve women's lives or health. After hearing some of the women as witnesses, the jury acquitted him. In an unprecedented move, the acquittal was overturned by five judges on the Quebec Court of Appeal
Quebec Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal for Quebec is the highest judicial court in Quebec, Canada....

 in 1974. The doctor appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court of Canada
Supreme Court of Canada
The Supreme Court of Canada is the highest court of Canada and is the final court of appeals in the Canadian justice system. The court grants permission to between 40 and 75 litigants each year to appeal decisions rendered by provincial, territorial and federal appellate courts, and its decisions...

 but the court upheld his conviction in a 6 - 3 decision. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison and began serving his sentence in March, 1975.

In 1974, a national organization called CARAL
Caral was a large settlement in the Supe Valley, near Supe, Barranca province, Peru, some 200 km north of Lima. Caral is the most ancient city of the Americas, and is a well-studied site of the Caral civilization or Norte Chico civilization.- History :...

, the Canadian Association for Repeal of the Abortion Law, was formed to support Dr. Morgentaler's challenge of the 1969 abortion law, which required the approval of a Therapeutic Abortion Committee before an abortion could be legally performed (without requiring TACs to be formed or to meet). The organization formed provincial and local chapters across Canada. It helped to raise funds for Morgentaler's legal fees. Later, the organization changed its name to the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League/Association Canadienne pour le Droit d'Avortement (CARAL/ACDA). Their charter is to assure that no woman is denied the right to a safe, legal abortion and to gain recognition that the right to a safe, legal abortion is a fundamental human right. Another reason that they support Dr. Morgentaler is that the technique he developed, vacuum curettage, is safer and less invasive than the traditional dilation and curettage
Dilation and curettage
Dilation and curettage refers to the dilation of the cervix and surgical removal of part of the lining of the uterus and/or contents of the uterus by scraping and scooping . It is a diagnostic gynecological procedure.D&C normally is referred to a procedure involving a curette, also called sharp...

 (D&C) that was traditionally performed at hospitals for abortions or after miscarriages. As long as he remains active in the profession, he trains other doctors in his techniques.

In 1975, under Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
Pierre Trudeau
Joseph Philippe Pierre Yves Elliott Trudeau, , usually known as Pierre Trudeau or Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was the 15th Prime Minister of Canada from April 20, 1968 to June 4, 1979, and again from March 3, 1980 to June 30, 1984.Trudeau began his political career campaigning for socialist ideals,...

, the Canadian Parliament changed the law so that an appeals court could not overturn a jury
A jury is a sworn body of people convened to render an impartial verdict officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a penalty or judgment. Modern juries tend to be found in courts to ascertain the guilt, or lack thereof, in a crime. In Anglophone jurisdictions, the verdict may be guilty,...

 acquittal, although they could order a new trial. This is known as the Morgentaler amendment. The Quebec government set aside their first, wrongful conviction and ordered a new trial. Morgentaler was released to await trial. In 1976, Henry Morgentaler was again acquitted, by a different jury, on the first set of charges. This was his third jury acquittal in Quebec.

In 1975, while he was in prison, the Quebec Ministry of justice laid a second set of charges against him and he was acquitted by another jury. However, he was already in jail. A political cartoon at the time showed a prison guard pushing Dr. Morgentaler's food tray into his cell and saying, "congratulations, doctor, you've been acquitted again!" The Ministry of Justice appealed this second acquittal but this time, the Quebec Court of Appeal unanimously upheld the acquittal (January 19, 1976).

In defiance of legal custom, Dr. Morgentaler was not released on parole after serving 1/3 of his sentence, six months. In total, he served ten months, suffering a heart attack while in solitary confinement
Solitary confinement
Solitary confinement is a special form of imprisonment in which a prisoner is isolated from any human contact, though often with the exception of members of prison staff. It is sometimes employed as a form of punishment beyond incarceration for a prisoner, and has been cited as an additional...

, after which he was released to hospital. It was reported that, until he was removed from the portfolio, the Quebec Justice Minister Jerome Choquette
Jérôme Choquette
Jérôme Choquette is a lawyer and politician in Quebec, Canada.-Background:Choquette was born in Montreal, Quebec, and studied at the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Academy and Collège Stanislas in Montreal, a Roman Catholic private school and the most elite institution of its kind in Quebec...

 was deeply involved and interested in prosecuting Morgentaler.

In 1976, a new Quebec government, the Parti Québécois
Parti Québécois
The Parti Québécois is a centre-left political party that advocates national sovereignty for the province of Quebec and secession from Canada. The Party traditionally has support from the labour movement. Unlike many other social-democratic parties, its ties with the labour movement are informal...

, was voted in and they decided that the abortion law could not be enforced if juries would not convict, so they dropped the remaining charges. Later, in 1976 the Attorney General for Quebec announced that thenceforward abortions performed by doctors in free-standing clinics were legal in the province.

In 1976, Morgentaler went to the Supreme Court of Canada
Supreme Court of Canada
The Supreme Court of Canada is the highest court of Canada and is the final court of appeals in the Canadian justice system. The court grants permission to between 40 and 75 litigants each year to appeal decisions rendered by provincial, territorial and federal appellate courts, and its decisions...

 in an attempt to overturn the country's abortion law in Morgentaler v. The Queen
Morgentaler v. The Queen
Morgentaler v. The Queen, [1976] 1 S.C.R. 616 is a famous decision of the Supreme Court of Canada where Henry Morgentaler unsuccessfully challenged the prohibition of abortion in Canada under the Criminal Code. The Court found the abortion law was appropriately passed by Parliament under the laws...

 but was unsuccessful.

Encouraged by public support for his struggle, Morgentaler decided to challenge the law in other provinces. He spent the next 15 years opening and running abortion clinics across Canada, in clear violation of the law. In each province, he announced in advance that he would open a clinic.

In 1982, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a bill of rights entrenched in the Constitution of Canada. It forms the first part of the Constitution Act, 1982...

 was enacted as part of the Canadian Constitution. The Charter was relevant to Morgentaler's later court cases.

In 1983, Toronto Police raided Morgentaler's newly opened clinic and he and two colleagues were charged with providing illegal miscarriages. At this point the tide of public opinion had turned in Morgentaler's favour: A Gallup poll in 1983 showed that 72% of Canadians believed that the decision to abort should rest solely with a pregnant woman and her doctor. Once again Morgentaler was acquitted by a jury, but the Attorney General's office appealed and the verdict was reversed by the Court of Appeal for Ontario. Once again, an appeal court had overturned a jury acquittal. Before Morgentaler, this was unheard of. Morgentaler appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada
Supreme Court of Canada
The Supreme Court of Canada is the highest court of Canada and is the final court of appeals in the Canadian justice system. The court grants permission to between 40 and 75 litigants each year to appeal decisions rendered by provincial, territorial and federal appellate courts, and its decisions...


The appeal case, R v. Morgentaler, 1988, was heard by the Canadian Supreme Court, which upheld the original jury acquittal. In addition, it declared the 1969 abortion law to be in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and thus unconstitutional in the case of R. v. Morgentaler
R. v. Morgentaler
R. v. Morgentaler [1988] 1 S.C.R. 30 was a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada wherein the abortion provision in the Criminal Code of Canada was found to be unconstitutional, as it violated a woman's right under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to "security of person"...

 1988 (1 S.C.R. 30). The court ruled 5-2 that the administrative procedures were cumbersome and unjustifiably interfered with the body integrity of women." On January 28, the law was found to violate Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it infringes upon a woman's right to "life, liberty and security of person." Chief Justice Brian Dickson wrote:
"Forcing a woman, by threat of criminal sanction, to carry a fetus to term unless she meets certain criteria unrelated to her own priorities and aspirations, is a profound interference with a woman's body and thus a violation of her security of the person."

Justice Bertha Wilson
Bertha Wilson
Bertha Wernham Wilson, CC was a Canadian jurist and the first woman Puisne Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.-Early life:...

"The decision of a woman to terminate her pregnancy falls within the class of protected decisions [because it will have] profound psychological, economic and social consequences for the pregnant woman… The right to reproduce or not to reproduce… is properly perceived as an integral part of modern woman’s struggle to assert her dignity and worth as a human being… The purpose of [section 251] is to take the decision away from the woman and give it to a committee."

This was basically Morgentaler's reasoning. The Supreme Court ruling essentially ended all criminal restrictions that singled out abortion in Canada
Abortion in Canada
Abortion in Canada is not limited by the law . While some non-legal obstacles exist, Canada is one of only a few nations with no legal restrictions on abortion. Regulations and accessibility vary between provinces....

 for special treatment, leaving it to be governed by Canada's laws concerning medical practice. The Canada Health Act, provincial medical regulations, and health insurance restrictions still applied. In particular, provinces could refuse to pay for clinic abortions; but they could not demand that TACs be used to screen the procedures for approval nor could they forbid abortion outright. Henry Morgentaler has described this as the happiest day of his life.

The courts also reviewed various attempts by provinces and municipalities to use laws about medical services to restrict or hamper the ability of pregnant women to exercise a right of choice. All such attempts were denied by the courts. Anti-abortion forces resorted to political attempts to deny funding to private abortion clinics and to ban the establishment of clinics within provinces. In 1989, Nova Scotia banned abortions outside hospitals, making all clinic abortions illegal or at least unfunded.

In June, 1991, the Ontario government announced that all abortions in the province, including clinic abortions, would be covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan
Ontario Health Insurance Plan
The Ontario Health Insurance Plan is the government-run health insurance plan for the Canadian province of Ontario...

. Women would not have to pay out of pocket for clinic abortions, as they did in other provinces. The Ontario Ministry of Health announced that they would be working with the medical profession to ensure that enough doctors were trained and would perform abortions to keep up with the demand from Ontario women.

In 1993, Morgentaler won another case before the Supreme Court, R. v. Morgentaler
R. v. Morgentaler (1993)
R. v. Morgentaler [1993] 3 S.C.R. 463, was a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada invalidating a provincial attempt to regulate abortions in Canada. This followed the 1988 decision R. v. Morgentaler, which had struck down the federal abortion law as a breach of section 7 of the Canadian Charter...

The court stuck down that part of the Nova Scotia Medical Services Act that forbade abortion clinics. Morgentaler was free to open a clinic in Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the most populous province in Atlantic Canada. The name of the province is Latin for "New Scotland," but "Nova Scotia" is the recognized, English-language name of the province. The provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the...


In 1994, New Brunswick banned abortions in clinics outside hospitals.

In 1995, abortion was added to the Canada Health Act as an essential medical service, meaning that it must be covered by health insurance. Nevertheless, some provinces do not cover clinic abortions.

In 1995, provincial and federal rulings forced Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to allow private abortion clinics.

The Alberta government was penalized under the Canada Health Act for not funding abortions in clinics, but instead allowing private billing at provincial abortion clinics. In 1996, Alberta gave in to the financial pressure and agreed to fund the clinics.

In 1996, Henry Morgentaler wrote "The Moral Case for Abortion." In it, he gives the reasoning that guided his actions from the first abortions in Quebec and fuelled his defence of necessity in providing women with abortions. This was, in essence, the reason that Quebec juries would not convict him:
Have all these people forgotten that women used to die in our countries from self-induced or quack abortions, that unwanted children were given away to institutions where they suffered enormous trauma that took the joy of life away from them and made them into anxious, depressed individuals with a grudge against society? Have all these people forgotten that an unwanted pregnancy was the biggest health hazard to young fertile women and could result in loss of fertility, long-term illness, injury, and death?

While no precise figures exist, it is estimated that approximately 4,000 to 6,000 Canadian women died from illegal abortions between 1926 and 1947. This lesson was reinforced in 1990, by the Conservative attempt to recriminalize abortion. A Conservative federal government, led by Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, introduced Bill C-43, which would punish doctors with prison terms if they did abortions for women whose health was not at risk. It passed the House of Commons by a narrow vote of 140 – 131 in a blaze of publicity. It was not yet law, but within a week a 20-year-old university student bled to death in residence from a self-induced coat hanger abortion. A teenaged girl was injured in a botched back-alley abortion. These casualties of unwanted pregnancy received a lot of publicity and abortion rights demonstrations were held after the death of the student, protesting Bill C-43. The bill was defeated by the Senate by a tie vote in early 1991 and the casualties of illegal abortion ceased.

Morgentaler's recent legal battles have focused on obtaining universal public funding
Medicare (Canada)
Medicare is the unofficial name for Canada's publicly funded universal health insurance system. The formal terminology for the insurance system is provided by the Canada Health Act and the health insurance legislation of the individual provinces and territories.Under the terms of the Canada Health...

 for abortions, by gaining recognition that a well-regulated specialist clinic provides a service equivalent to that offered in a hospital. In New Brunswick
New Brunswick
New Brunswick is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the only province in the federation that is constitutionally bilingual . The provincial capital is Fredericton and Saint John is the most populous city. Greater Moncton is the largest Census Metropolitan Area...

 and Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island is a Canadian province consisting of an island of the same name, as well as other islands. The maritime province is the smallest in the nation in both land area and population...

, for example, the provincial health care system pays for abortions only if they are performed at authorized hospitals and approved by two physicians. Morgentaler has challenged this policy in New Brunswick.

In 2008 the challenge was before the courts. The province originally stated that women could get medically necessary abortions at New Brunswick hospitals. However, In 2006, the last hospital in New Brunswick to perform publicly funded abortions, the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton, announced that it would suspend abortion services as of July 1, citing workload problems. New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are the only provinces in Canada that refuse to pay for abortions in clinics. This rule violates the Canada Health Act as well as the 1988 Supreme Court Morgentaler Decision. The province argued that Morgentaler could not have standing because only a woman who needed to use the clinic had the right to challenge abortion policy. The New Brunswick Court of Queen's Bench ruled that Henry Morgentaler had standing to proceed with a lawsuit against the government. That leaves the Morgentaler clinic in Fredericton, where women can obtain abortions by paying up to $750.

Judge Paulette Garnett said that Morgentaler should have legal standing to proceed with the lawsuit because the personal nature of abortions - and the fact the procedures are time-sensitive - make it difficult for women to take the government before the courts. After the ruling, the government considered whether it should appeal.

In 2009,

Morgentaler is currently working to open two private abortion clinics in the Canadian Arctic, so that women who live there do not have to travel vast distances to obtain abortions.

Death threats, assaults, and bombings

There have been many instances of anti-abortion violence against Dr. Morgentaler, his staff, his patients, and his colleagues. Anti-abortion violence is described by CSIS as single-issue terrorism
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...


Death threats against Dr. Morgentaler have been frequent. In the 1980s, a reporter noted that the stack of death threats for a single month was six inches thick.

In 1983, a man attacked him with garden shears outside of his Toronto abortion clinic. Judy Rebick
Judy Rebick
Judy Rebick , arrived in Toronto at age 9, and is a Canadian journalist, political activist, and feminist.-Career:...

 blocked the attack and Morgentaler remained unharmed. Augusto Dantas was charged with assault and with possession of a weapon dangerous to the public good.

In May 1992, the Morgentaler Clinic on Harbord Street in Toronto
Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the largest city in Canada. It is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. A relatively modern city, Toronto's history dates back to the late-18th century, when its land was first purchased by the British monarchy from...

 was firebombed during the night by two people (caught on security camera) using gasoline and a firework to set off the explosion. The next day, clinic management announced that the firebombing failed to prevent any abortions, since all scheduled abortions were carried out in alternative locations. No one was hurt but the building had to be demolished. On the day after the firebombing, Morgentaler came to inspect the damage and a crowd of abortion-rights supporters appeared at the clinic with signs that read, "Just Say No to Bombs." As a result of the arson, the Ontario government decided to spent $420,000 on improved security for abortion clinics. At the time, all four free-standing clinics in Ontario were in Toronto. The government wanted to gather information about activities by pro-life sympathizers; at the time, law enforcement agencies in Canada did not collect statistics about harassment and violence against abortion providers, their clinics, or their clients.

After sniper attacks on other doctors such as Garson Romalis
Garson Romalis
Garson Romalis is a Canadian gynecologist who specializes in providing abortions. As a private citizen providing a legal medical service, he has twice been wounded by anti-abortion terrorists. The first attempt on his life was by far the most violent antiabortion crime in Canada, according to the...

 and Hugh Short (see Anti-abortion violence), abortion providers in Canada were aware that their own lives could be in danger from pro-life assassins with high-powered rifles.

The murder of Dr.Bernett A. Slepian in Buffalo on October 24, 1998, also by a high-powered rifle, reinforced the threats. Abortion doctors wore bullet-proof vests and pulled their curtains to prevent assassins from shooting into their homes. Dr. Morgentaler was quoted as saying, "I know of anecdotal evidence that some doctors are considering that they might not be able to continue. It's a very bad situation." He said that he would go on performing abortions. Dr. Morgentaler believed that the attacker was an American and that the attacks were an unwanted byproduct of the vitriolic abortion battle in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. He stated, "In Canada, you have fewer religious fanatics, there is much less violence in Canada and it's a much more tolerant society."

In response to the stabbing of Dr. Garson Romalis
Garson Romalis
Garson Romalis is a Canadian gynecologist who specializes in providing abortions. As a private citizen providing a legal medical service, he has twice been wounded by anti-abortion terrorists. The first attempt on his life was by far the most violent antiabortion crime in Canada, according to the...

 in 2000, Morgentaler noted that some doctors in Ontario, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland had stopped doing abortions. "For years, we have been living in the shadow of the doctors being killed", said Morgentaler. "This violence is a sign of frustration
This article concerns the field of psychology. The term frustration does, however, also concern physics. In this context, the term is treated in a different article, geometric frustration....

, rage
Rage may refer to:* Rage , an intense form of anger- Games :* Rage , a 2011 first-person shooter and racing video game developed by id Software* Rage Software Limited, a defunct game developer...

 and moral bankruptcy
Moral bankruptcy
Moral bankruptcy is a synonym for immorality that has gained popular usage in the fields of business and politics, in which it specifically implies some instance of political corruption or corporate crime...

 in the anti-abortion movement."

Other legal troubles

In 1976, the Disciplinary Committee of the Professional Corporation of Physicians of Quebec suspended Morgentaler's medical licence for a year as a result of his conviction for having performed an illegal abortion. As he operated outside hospitals and without a Therapeutic Abortion Committee, all his abortions were illegal. According to Catherine Dunphy's 1996 biography of Morgentaler, the committee "commented on 'an attitude which is primarily directed to protecting his fees. No really valid interview is held before proceeding with the abortion. This behaviour confers a mercenary character on the doctor-patient relationship. This committee is incapable of reconciling this behaviour with the humanitarian concern that the accused invoked throughout his defence.'"

The Montreal Gazette
The Gazette (Montreal)
The Gazette, often called the Montreal Gazette to avoid ambiguity, is the only English-language daily newspaper published in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, with three other daily English newspapers all having shut down at different times during the second half of the 20th century.-History:In 1778,...

 previously reported in 1974 that according to police evidence, Morgentaler was re-using disposable vacurettes, against the manufacturer's instructions which stated that they "cannot be re-used". The Gazette reported that when contacted, Morgentaler stated that earlier model Vacurettes "could occasionally be used more than once", but he insisted that "whether someone uses a Vacurette once or twice has nothing to do with practising good medicine." A 1991 Alberta Report
Alberta Report
Alberta Report was a right-wing weekly newsmagazine based in Edmonton. It was founded and edited by Ted Byfield, now the editor and president of the Society to Explore and Record Christian History , and later run by his son, Link Byfield, and ceased publication in 2003.The magazine began as St....

 article reports that he now denied having re-used vacurettes, but it also reported that according to The Gazettes lawyers, Morgentaler never took any legal action against that paper.

In 1973, on the basis of Morgentaler's public claims that he had performed thousands of abortions, the Quebec Ministry of Revenue
Ministère du Revenu du Québec
Revenu Québec is the department of the government of the Province of Quebec, Canada that...

 ordered him to pay $354,799 in unpaid income taxes. Morgentaler settled out of court a few years later, paying $101,000.

Honours and awards

Dr Henry Morgentaler was the first president of the Humanist Association of Canada
Humanist Association of Canada
Humanist Canada is a national not-for-profit charitable organization promoting the separation of religion from public policy and fostering the development of reason, compassion and critical thinking for all Canadians through secular education and community support...

 (HAC) from 1968 to 1999. He remains the organization's honorary president. The HAC bestowed on him its Lifetime Achievement Award on August 3, 2008 in Toronto, Ontario, during its 40th anniversary celebration convention, the largest Humanist convention in the nation's history.

The American Humanist Association
American Humanist Association
The American Humanist Association is an educational organization in the United States that advances Humanism. "Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that...

 named him the 1975 Humanist of the Year, along with Betty Friedan
Betty Friedan
Betty Friedan was an American writer, activist, and feminist.A leading figure in the Women's Movement in the United States, her 1963 book The Feminine Mystique is often credited with sparking the "second wave" of American feminism in the twentieth century...

, author of The Feminine Mystique.

On June 16, 2005, the University of Western Ontario
University of Western Ontario
The University of Western Ontario is a public research university located in London, Ontario, Canada. The university's main campus covers of land, with the Thames River cutting through the eastern portion of the main campus. Western administers its programs through 12 different faculties and...

 conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws degree upon Morgentaler; this was his first honorary degree. This decision by UWO's senate honorary degrees committee generated opposition from Canadian pro-life
Opposition to the legalization of abortion is centered around the pro-life, or anti-abortion, movement, a social and political movement opposing elective abortion on moral grounds and supporting its legal prohibition or restriction...

 organizations. 12,000 signatures were acquired on a petition asking the UWO to reverse its decision to honour Dr. Morgentaler and several protest rallies were held, including one on the day the honorary degree was bestowed. A counter petition, supporting the UWO's decision, gained over 10,000 signatures.

On August 5, 2005 Morgentaler received the Couchiching Award for Public Policy Leadership for his efforts on behalf of women's rights
Women's rights
Women's rights are entitlements and freedoms claimed for women and girls of all ages in many societies.In some places these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, local custom, and behaviour, whereas in others they may be ignored or suppressed...

 and reproductive health
Reproductive health
Within the framework of the World Health Organization's definition of health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, reproductive health, or sexual health/hygiene, addresses the reproductive processes, functions and system...

 issues. The Award was given by the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs
Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs
The Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs is Canada's oldest organization devoted to studying and publicizing current issues affecting Canada and public policy...

 at its 74th annual summer conference. The Couchiching Award for Public Policy Leadership is presented annually to a nationally recognised Canadian who has demonstrated public policy leadership that results in positive impact on Canada or a community within Canada, often in the face of public opposition. In part, the citation reads
The women’s movement of the 1960s found in Dr. Morgentaler a person who understood that women’s equality could not be achieved within the existing restrictions on medical services for reproductive choice. In offering women access to necessary services that faced considerable restriction elsewhere, Dr. Morgentaler used both his professional status and personal skills to fight for women’s rights, while placing himself at risk. His actions have brought about fundamental changes in Canadian law and to the health care system and in so doing dramatically affected for the better the lives of Canadians from coast to coast.

The Canadian Labour Congress
Canadian Labour Congress
The Canadian Labour Congress, or CLC is a national trade union centre, the central labour body in English Canada to which most Canadian labour unions are affiliated.- Formation :...

 recognized him on May 28, 2008 with its highest honour, the Award for Outstanding Service to Humanity. The CLC's description reads
Morgentaler, 85 and frail, accepted the award from the Officers of the Canadian Labour Congress and thanked the unions for standing with him through his many years of struggle to secure for women the right to control their own health and their own bodies. Choice and freedom.

On this occasion, Dr. Morgentaler said, “We must remain vigilant in defence of a woman's right to choose, because there are still too many legislators and health care providers out there who are not pro-choice and too many women who continue to have their health put at risk because they are denied access to safe abortion services in a supportive environment – twenty years after Canada’s abortion laws were struck down.”

In 2010, Henry Morgentaler was nominated for a Transformational Canadians award as a person who has "made a difference by immeasurably improving the lives of others." The news item points out, "In Canada, a woman can have an abortion without fear of prosecution or imprisonment – for the simple reason that there is no abortion law. For more than 20 years, that state of affairs has set us apart from the rest of the developed world. Canadian women enjoy the right to safe and legal abortions largely because Henry Morgentaler fought a long battle on their behalf. For his trouble, the unflappable Dr. Morgentaler stood trial, languished in prison, and received numerous death threats. What drove him to take such risks? “The realization that a terrible injustice was being done to women and the conviction that it was necessary to change the situation to provide help for those who needed it,” replies the retired physician via email."

Order of Canada

Morgentaler was named a Member of the Order of Canada (Ordre du Canada)
Order of Canada
The Order of Canada is a Canadian national order, admission into which is, within the system of orders, decorations, and medals of Canada, the second highest honour for merit...

 on July 1, 2008. He was recognized "for his commitment to increased health care options for women, his determined efforts to influence Canadian public policy and his leadership in humanist and civil liberties organizations." Abortion-rights activists applauded the decision, saying Morgentaler put his life and liberty on the line to advance women's rights, while pro-life groups strongly criticized the award, saying it debased the Order of Canada. Feminist and author Judy Rebick told the Globe and Mail on Monday that it is high time Morgentaler was honoured for his long battle. She said, "Dr. Morgentaler is a hero to millions of women in the country," she said. "He risked his life to struggle for women's rights … He's a huge figure in Canadian history and the fact that he hasn't got [the Order of Canada] until now is a scandal."

On the matter, Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Canada
The Prime Minister of Canada is the primary minister of the Crown, chairman of the Cabinet, and thus head of government for Canada, charged with advising the Canadian monarch or viceroy on the exercise of the executive powers vested in them by the constitution...

 Stephen Harper
Stephen Harper
Stephen Joseph Harper is the 22nd and current Prime Minister of Canada and leader of the Conservative Party. Harper became prime minister when his party formed a minority government after the 2006 federal election...

 said he'd rather see the country's highest civilian award "be something that really unifies" and "brings Canadians together", while Liberal Party leader Stéphane Dion
Stéphane Dion
Stéphane Maurice Dion, PC, MP is a Canadian politician who has been the Member of Parliament for the riding of Saint-Laurent–Cartierville in Montreal since 1996. He was the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and the Leader of the Opposition in the Canadian House of Commons from 2006 to 2008...

 said, "Dr. Morgentaler has stood up for a woman’s right to choose to for his entire career, often at great personal risk", and asked Canadians to respect and celebrate the decision.

Several members of the order said they would return their insigniae to Rideau Hall
Rideau Hall
Rideau Hall is, since 1867, the official residence in Ottawa of both the Canadian monarch and the Governor General of Canada. It stands in Canada's capital on a 0.36 km2 estate at 1 Sussex Drive, with the main building consisting of 170 rooms across 9,500 m2 , and 24 outbuildings around the...

 in protest, including Roman Catholic priest Lucien Larré
Lucien Larré
Lucien Larré is a Canadian Roman Catholic priest. He is the founder of Bosco Homes, a Saskatchewan-based organization operating homes for troubled youth, for which he was honoured by induction into the Order of Canada in 1983.In July 2008, he indicated his intention to resign his membership in...

; Gilbert Finn
Gilbert Finn
- External links :* at The Canadian Encyclopedia-References:...

, former Lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick
New Brunswick
New Brunswick is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the only province in the federation that is constitutionally bilingual . The provincial capital is Fredericton and Saint John is the most populous city. Greater Moncton is the largest Census Metropolitan Area...

; Frank Chauvin, a retired police detective who founded an orphanage; and the Madonna House Apostolate
Madonna House Apostolate
The Madonna House Apostolate is a Catholic Christian community of lay men, women, and priests dedicated to loving and serving Jesus Christ in all aspects of everyday life. It was founded in 1947 by Catherine Doherty in Combermere, Ontario and has established missionary field houses...

 on behalf of the late Catherine Doherty
Catherine Doherty
Ekaterina Fyodorovna Kolyschkine Doherty, better known as Catherine Doherty, CM, Servant of God was a social activist and foundress of the Madonna House Apostolate...

. However, ownership of the honour
Order of Canada
The Order of Canada is a Canadian national order, admission into which is, within the system of orders, decorations, and medals of Canada, the second highest honour for merit...

 dies with the person and their heirs or colleagues cannot return it.

On June 1, 2009, three members of the Order of Canada gave up their accolades and left the order in protest against Morgentaler's admission: the Catholic archbishop of Montreal, Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte. Cardinal Turcotte explained his resignation to the CBC, saying, "I'm worried about how we treat life, from conception to death. I decided to take a stance that clearly reflects my convictions." The others were Montreal astronomer René Racine and Montreal pianist and conductor Jacqueline Richard. About a dozen people picketed outside the ceremony in Quebec City.

Other Activities

Morgentaler's campaign for women's reproductive health has taken him across Canada on speaking engagements and fund-raising tours to promote family planning.

In 1999, Morgentaler pointed out that a decline in youth crime rates could be credited to the legalization of abortion nearly twenty years earlier, leading to fewer neglected and angry children and more mothers surviving to nurture their children.

In 2006, Dr. Morgentaler retired from active practice.

In August, 2011, Henry Morgentaler attended the funeral of Opposition Leader Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party. In the 1980s, Jack Layton attended clinic defences of the Morgentaler clinics, when abortion rights supporters guarded the entrance of a clinic to keep abortion opponents from blockading the doorways to stop patients from entering. The NDP has been a staunch supporter of abortion rights, making them part of its political platform for many years.

Media and cultural representations

Morgentaler was the subject of a 1984 National Film Board of Canada
National Film Board of Canada
The National Film Board of Canada is Canada's twelve-time Academy Award-winning public film producer and distributor. An agency of the Government of Canada, the NFB produces and distributes documentary, animation, alternative drama and digital media productions...

 documentary Democracy on Trial: The Morgentaler Affair, directed by Paul Cowan.

In 2005, the CTV television network
CTV television network
CTV Television Network is a Canadian English language television network and is owned by Bell Media. It is Canada's largest privately-owned network, and has consistently placed as Canada's top-rated network in total viewers and in key demographics since 2002, after several years trailing the rival...

 produced a television movie documenting Morgentaler's life and practice called Choice: The Henry Morgentaler Story. The movie is described thus: "It chronicles how the physician defiantly began his fight for women's reproductive rights in 1967, even serving time in a Quebec prison in 1975 on abortion charges. The story culminates with the Supreme Court of Canada deciding to strike down this country's abortion laws in 1988." In an interview with CTV, Morgentaler explains: "I got involved because this was, for me, a fight for justice, for fundamental justice, and the fact that I could possibly do something to help women in spite of a law which did not allow me to do it." "I was willing to go to jail, I was willing to die for it," he told CTV's Canada AM Wednesday. "So when I look back on it, I look at a life of achievement because I achieved a great deal and I'm very proud of it."

A famous Montreal Gazette editorial cartoon by Terry Mosher
Terry Mosher
Christopher Terry Mosher, OC is a Canadian political cartoonist for the Montreal Gazette. He draws under the name "Aislin", a rendition of the name of his eldest daughter Aislinn ....

 lampooned Montreal
Montreal is a city in Canada. It is the largest city in the province of Quebec, the second-largest city in Canada and the seventh largest in North America...

 Mayor Jean Drapeau
Jean Drapeau
Jean Drapeau, was a Canadian lawyer and politician who served as mayor of Montreal from 1954 to 1957 and 1960 to 1986...

's infamous prediction that "the Montreal Olympics can no more have a deficit, than a man can have a baby." After the financially disastrous 1976 Summer Olympics
1976 Summer Olympics
The 1976 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXI Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event celebrated in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, in 1976. Montreal was awarded the rights to the 1976 Games on May 12, 1970, at the 69th IOC Session in Amsterdam, over the bids of Moscow and...

, a pregnant Drapeau is shown placing a telephone call to Morgentaler.

The alternative rock
Alternative rock
Alternative rock is a genre of rock music and a term used to describe a diverse musical movement that emerged from the independent music underground of the 1980s and became widely popular by the 1990s...

 band Me Mom and Morgentaler
Me Mom and Morgentaler
Me Mom and Morgentaler were a 1990s Canadian third wave ska band from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.They were one of the most popular and influential alternative rock bands on the live music scene in Canada of their era, although they only released one studio album, 1993's Shiva Space Machine...

 used the doctor as the inspiration for its name.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.